I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning, and I lay awake for another three hours, watching and waiting for some of the dark emotions and memories to come bubbling, like some fog in the moonlight.
They used to terrify me, but as I got older, I realized they were mostly just talk and posturing, they didn’t really have any power, apart from the night.
They know how to get my attention, but they never really seemed to hurt me.
Maria, half-asleep mumbled something when I sat up suddenly; I knew she was asking me if I was all right. Maria and I take turns dealing with bad dreams and demons in the dark ashes of the night.
I said, “thanks, I’m fine,” and she fell back asleep, as I knew she would. She is a heavy sleeper, and I didn’t really answer the question long enough to wake her.
I don’t usually want to speak to anybody at times like that, not even her.
I’ve spent a good portion of my life staring up at the ceiling in the darkness. I’ve always done it alone.
I remembered Rumi’s “Guest House,” I like how he dealt with the darkness. He thought of being human as a guest house; all visitors should be welcomed and entertained.
“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.”
I’ve had a meanness or two visit me in the night all of my life, and for many years I tried to fight them off, deny them, trick them into leaving, sing a song, read a book – anything.
But I learned to go inside when that happens, not out. Everything that comes into my head is welcome.
I welcome the dark visitors. Come on in, I say, I’ll sing and dance for you, offer you some wine, stay as long as you like.
But I know, and they know that the shadows melt away with the first light, and like the vampires, they have to stay in the darkness to survive. The light kills them off.
I find them to be harmless, a space to cross. I don’t deny them any longer; I embrace them; they are a part of me, just like my nose and eyes. Over the long haul, do they really matter?
Peace comes not from denial but by embracing shadow and light interaction. A warm bed with a wonderful person in it doesn’t hurt, neither does an egg sandwich and turkey bacon, with fresh eggs from the roost and some tea, a perk of living in the country.
I remember Thoreau writing in his journal that he found greater peace when he was not trying to be contemplative or deep, but by simply accepting what came to him as something that “seems to be required of a man like me at a time like this.”
What a nice way to put it.
I love that last line.
When the dark emotions bubble up, I remind myself to accept them, just as I accept joy and happiness. They seem to be required of a man like me at a time like this.